Don’t Touch Inga Saffron’s Eyes

She seriously can't take the thought. Plus, the Inquirer architecture critic talks cheap booze, Ray Bradbury and the new Barnes museum.

The revered Inquirer architecture critic has strong opinions on our cityscape, to be sure. But here, she offers her thoughts on cheap beer, parallel parking and Ray Bradbury, and reveals her secret phobia. (Hint: She can’t watch A Clockwork Orange.)

My name is … Inga Saffron. I was named after my paternal grandfather. His name was not Inga. But it did start with an “I.”

The farthest I’ve been from Philly is … Usinsk, Russia. Near the Arctic Circle. I used to be a Moscow correspondent.

If I could demolish one Philadelphia building, it would be … Jefferson Hospital’s giant parking garage on Chestnut Street.

My preferred method of transportation is … bicycle. I ride a very cool Japanese three-speed. Bought it used. It’s very fast.

The last time I owned a TV was … sometime in the ’80s. I don’t watch TV. Well, except for 30 Rock and Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report. But I watch them on my computer.

My first drink … was probably a Budweiser.

If I were mayor of Philadelphia … there would be a playground in every single neighborhood.

When I was 21 … I was living in Dublin, hanging out in pubs, doing freelance writing and being a hippie. And reading James Joyce.

My biggest phobia is … eye doctors. I read too many Helen Keller books. My biggest fear is losing my eyesight. I had to be hypnotized in order to use contact lenses. That’s my only neurosis. I have an immense fear of anyone touching my eyes.

When I need to get away from it all … I work in my community garden. I’m in it for the tomatoes.

My most extravagant possession is … a hundred-year-old carpet from Dagestan. I’m an Oriental carpet addict. I bought it in Moscow and haggled in Russian. I learned my Russian haggling with vendors.

If I were a movie star, I’d want my leading man to be … Jude Law. No, wait. Philip Seymour Hoffman. He seems smarter.

If I didn’t live in Philly … I would live in a rapidly changing city in China or India, like Shanghai or Mumbai.

My secret talent is … I am a great parallel parker.

The prettiest street in Philadelphia is … the 2400 block of Panama. Every house is painted a different color. It’s very narrow and has Belgian bricks, and in the spring it’s overhung with cherry blossoms and magnolias and mimosas, a canopy of pink blossoms.

The new Barnes Museum definitely shouldn’t have a parking lot in front of its beautiful entrance.

When I was a kid, I loved to play … basketball in my driveway.

The most overlooked tourist attraction here is … the Atwater Kent Museum. It’s about Philadelphia’s city history. We are very big on Colonial history but forget that we were an industrial powerhouse.

Philly has an undeservedly bad reputation for … being uncool.

Philly has a deservedly bad reputation for … being unhealthy. We’re always the fattest.

My favorite science fiction novel is … Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

When in Rome … proceed to the Piazza Navona, sit outside in the sun, and drink a Martini Rosso. The dark one.

If you’re coming for dinner, whatever you do, don’t … be on time.